Glass Mask is a Japanese shōjo manga series written and illustrated by Suzue Miuchi, serialized in Hana to Yume from January 1976, and collected in 49 tankōbon volumes as of October 2012. The story has also been adapted into anime and a live-action television series. As of 2006, the collected volumes had 50 million copies in Japan, making it the second best-selling shōjo manga ever. The title refers poetically to the mask of faces that actors wear – while expressing emotions that are not their own, the mask they wear (their acting) is as fragile as glass. If the actors are distracted, their mask will “break” and show on stage the actors’ true feelings.
After not publishing a new chapter of the story for more than two years, Miuchi re-launched Glass Mask in Hakusensha’s Bessatsu Hana to Yume magazine in July 2008. Miuchi has announced that she intends to end the series soon.
Glass Mask is a saga depicting the devotion of Maya Kitajima to the performing arts as a professional stage actress, and her competition with her skilled rival, Ayumi Himekawa. They are both pursuing the degree of acting proficiency and career success required to play the lead role of the legendary stage play “The Crimson Goddess” (“Kurenai Tennyo”). Maya is not particularly beautiful or smart in school, but her passion for acting is all-consuming, to the point where she literally puts her own life on the line several times for the sake of a role. Always told by her mother that she was good for nothing, Maya wants to prove to the world and to herself that she has worth. On the other hand, everyone expects the gifted and multi-talented Ayumi to succeed, so she is determined to reach the top on her own without the help of her prestigious parents.
As the story unfolds it encompasses the tangled human relationships of many characters, including Maya’s mentor, Chigusa Tsukikage, who discovered Maya’s tremendous talent for acting during her search for a successor capable of performing the role of “The Crimson Goddess”, and Masumi Hayami, the young president of Daito, who often interacts with Maya as a crafty and cold-hearted entrepreneur, while giving her faithful support and warm encouragement in the disguise of an anonymous fan (“The Purple Rose Person”, or “murasaki no bara no hito” as Maya calls him for his trademark gift of purple roses). Hajime Onodera, a director for Daito, wants the rights to “Kurenai Tennyo,” which were given to Tsukikage by the playwright; since Tsukikage refuses to sell him the rights, Onodera tries to drive Tsukikage’s acting school out of business through a series of nefarious schemes. Since Onodera is working for Hayami, Maya (unaware that Hayami is “The Purple Rose”) hates him. Though there is an age difference of eleven years, Masumi falls in love with Maya and gives her encouragement in subtle ways.
Spinoff – The Crimson Goddess
The play within Glass Mask, the Crimson Goddess, will be adapted in 2020 as a “creative opera”.